21 May 2009


So I decided "yes" and Roberto and Monia, the Italian couch surfers, spent a few days with me. This is a picture of them in their homeland. He looks much more robust than he actually is and she looks more glamorous. Sweet kids. Monia and I are both Sagittarius. Many of you perceived Roberto as arrogant based on the YouTube clip. We laughed about that. He is, in fact, arrogant. He's also a disheartened actor who dabbles in music and psychology. I found him amusing; he'd be a great model for a cartoon character. He and Monia have discussed his arrogance on a number of occasions.

They weren't pushy about the Hare Krishna stuff, though we did talk a lot about religion and other philosophical traditions. Monia took her major in Philosophy at university. We hit it off.

Besides a shared zodiac sun sign, Monia and I are both "lazy". We were discussing music and she said she's always wanted to play piano, believing it to be the "ultimate" instrument. I, the perennial Piano Teacher, encouraged her to take lessons. "Oh, yes, it would be a good thing but I am lazy" she said without blinking an eye. As some of you know, me and "lazy" go way back so she grabbed my attention with her unabashed confession.

When I glimpse my lazy self from time to time, two thoughts come to mind:

1. It's bad to call myself "lazy". Nearly everyone I've ever confessed to has chastised me for using such an unkind adjective to describe myself.

2. Do I think I'm lazy because I was labelled that as a child?

Wiki says "lazy" is "lack of desire to expend energy." That's not such a negative concept, is it? It's simply the opposite of being full of desire to expend energy. It's not the habitual lack of desire..... It's just not feeling like doing anything.

I often have no desire to expend energy. What's wrong with that?


  1. Maybe it's all inner energy you're expending?

    Is my excuse x

  2. Ooooooh, I like that idea. And it's probably true. I've heard often enough "Alex, relax. Most people aren't giving it that much thought." I am intellectually and spiritually rigorous and physically lazy. Thanks, Davy H.

  3. From Zen Habits:

    6 Small Things You Can Do When You Lack Discipline

    Post written by Leo Babauta.

    One of the biggest problems people face is the lack of discipline — they have goals or habits they want to achieve, but lack that discipline needed to stick with it.

    Then we beat ourselves up about it. We feel crappy because we can’t stick with it.

    And that leads to more failure, because we’re forming a mindset that we don’t have the necessary discipline.

    Here’s what to do when you face a situation like this:

    1. Forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect. No one is. Realize that beating yourself up will only make things worse. Take a few slow, deep breaths and let it go. Forgive yourself. And move on.

    2. Realize that discipline is an illusion. While discipline is a common concept, it doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a thing you can actually do. Think about it: people say discipline is pushing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. But how do you do that? What skill is required? There isn’t a skill — it’s just forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. And that requires … some kind of motivation. Without motivation, you won’t be able to force yourself to do anything. So motivation is the key concept — and this is something that’s real, that you can actually learn how to do.

    3. Focus on motivation. What’s your motivation for pursuing the goal or habit? How will you sustain the motivation when you struggle? Have very strong motivations for doing something, and write them down. Commit publicly. When things get tough, remind yourself of your motivation. Focus on it. It’ll pull you along — that’s more powerful than trying to focus on the push of discipline.

    4. Make it easy. Discipline is tough because whatever the task or habit you’re trying to do is tough. Instead, make it easy. Remove barriers. Having a hard time exercising? Make it ridiculously easy, by only exercising for 5 minutes. What use is exercising for 5 minutes? You’re creating the habit, not getting yourself into shape overnight. The 5 minutes of exercise will have only a tiny impact on your health, but it makes exercise super easy. If you can do that 30 days in a row, you now have an exercise habit. Hate waking up early to go to the gym? Do it at home. Do it during lunch or after work.

    5. Focus on enjoyment. It’s hard to push yourself — to have discipline — when you hate doing something. So find something enjoyable about the activity. If you don’t look forward to exercise, find some good music, or a workout partner who you can have a nice conversation with, or a peaceful setting in nature that is just beautiful. And focus on that enjoyable aspect. Hate doing your paperwork? Find a peaceful sanctuary where you can do the paperwork and enjoy yourself. Maybe have a nice cup of tea or coffee, play some nice music. And focus on the enjoyment.

    6. Repeat. You’ll almost inevitably slip up sometime, no matter how good you are. Unfortunately, people often take this to mean they don’t have discipline, and they just beat themselves up and give up. Well, it’s just a bump in the road. Get up, dust yourself off, and get going again. Start from Step 1 and start all over.

  4. Thanks, Bill. A very gentle read.

    Obviously you perceive a connection between laziness and discipline. And, as I read, I realized I have assumed a connection, too, but had never looked closely at it before.

    A question: Do you appreciate a difference between "lazy" and "undisciplined"? This essay prompted me to ask myself the question and the answer is "Yes, I do". Do you?

  5. Alex,

    This is off-topic, but I was going to tell you that this week's "This American Life" featured a story about Brandon Darby, the guy from Common Ground.

  6. A belated response, but I was thinking about this last night, while unable to go to sleep.

    In some ways, laziness and a lack of discipline are not the same. One might be too scattered or unable to focus on a task, but you wouldn't call it being lazy. For example if you set out to learn a piece of music by jumping around from page to page, in a helter skelter fashion. This might not be laziness, but would demonstrate a certain lack of discipline.

    But if I'm resisting getting out of bed to do some morning exercises/yoga/mediatation, this might be both a lack of discipline and laziness, both of which I possess in full measure.


What do you feel about what you just read?